|System: PS Vita|
|Pub: Square Enix|
|Release: February 22, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 544p||Blood and Gore, Violence|
by Robert VerBruggen
Did Sony not give some of its Vita developers enough time to fine-tune their launch titles? It certainly seems that way—ModNation Racers: Road Trip was a bust last week, and now Army Corps of Hell doesn't fare a whole lot better.
At first, Army Corps of Hell looks promising. The idea here is to take the gameplay of Pikmin and Overlord and present it in a heavy metal world. You are the King of Hell, but you have fallen from your throne, and the only way you can take it back is to fight through a long succession of demons. Your own powers have been taken from you, but you have a set of loyal minions that will do your bidding.
Learning to use these minions well is the key to success in this game. You can simply throw them at enemies if you want, or you can get them into formation for a more powerful attack. Once you've landed a certain number of minions on a bad guy, you can have them perform a special attack if you pull off a quick time event. As you progress through the game, your minion army grows, and you unlock new types of minions, as well as new weapons for them to use. Your soldiers handle melee combat, your spearmen have range, and your magi can do (of course) magical attacks. Whenever you go into a new stage, you can choose a set of minions and weapons that will work best for the challenges you'll face.
As you come across new types of enemies, you'll quickly learn the strategies that work best against them. And once you've killed a foe, you can have your men loot the corpse, gaining items you can use to craft new weapons. Minions can take only one hit apiece before they die, but you can revive them simply by walking over them. And when you fight bosses, you have to learn their attack patterns and figure out how to hit their (conveniently brightly glowing) weak spots.
All of this is somewhat fun—up to a point. The problem is that everything about this game is incredibly repetitive.
While you'll encounter new enemies that require new strategies from time to time, there's nowhere near enough variety to sustain an entire game. In fact, because some of the items you need for crafting are random drops, you'll need to trudge through some of the exact same sequences to upgrade your weapons. When the boss fights do become challenging, you find yourself spending more time resurrecting your minions than anything else. And unlike Pikmin and Overlord, Army Corps of Hell is essentially an action game, with little humor or other tasks to help break things up.
The visuals here are reused over and over again as well—seemingly every stage you encounter is just a series of infernal islands. In fact, even the images in the comic-style cutscenes are reused, just with new dialogue. And while you might think that reusing all the visuals would have given the developers time to make the stages remarkably detailed, the textures look outdated and the islands are pretty plain. To the game's credit, the buckets of blood that pour out whenever you defeat an enemy look nice, and the frame rate is steady.
The entire thing seems remarkably lazy and rushed. Where a launch title is supposed to show off what the new hardware can do, this looks like it belongs on a PSP. Square Enix should have given Entersphere more time to improve this game in development.
Further, like ModNation Racers, Army Corps of hell skimps on the multiplayer: It's local-only, so if you're in a single-Vita household, it's not even available to you. However, if you have friends with Vitas, you might enjoy the chance to "conquer hell together" and "torment your friends," as the trailer puts it.